2011-24 Fineline Bat-Wing Seedpot

This is an extraordinary seedpot painted with a fairly common design. (See “bat wing design” in the Index of Categories for other examples in this collection.) It’s not the design but the quality that startles.

The form of 2011-24 is perfectly shaped and thin. Lowell incorporated some micaceous clay in the body of the pot and the resulting glimmer (like stars on a clear night) can be seen on both the inside and outside of this jar. The bottom half of the jar is left undecorated, but because of the flecks of mica and the variations in color from its firing, it has a subtle vibrancy. The use of micaceous clay is not a Hopi or Hopi-Tewa tradition, but seems to have been inspired by the increased use of such clay by potters of the northern Rio Grande pueblos (See Anderson, 1999). Dextra and her students introduced the technique to Hopi.

Triangles form a four-pointed star surrounding the opening of the jar. Their solid maroon-red color draws the viewer’s eye to the top of the pot. With extraordinary delicacy Lowell has painted four black bat-wing designs between the red triangles. The straight lines are so thin that they seem like spider webs. These parallel lines and the squiggle lines in the wing tips vary slightly in width and shape, giving the design some added energy and preventing the appearance of having been done by decal.

Every once in a while, I see a Hopi or Hopi-Tewa pot where form, firing, and design fit together perfectly. These jars are often understated and without an obvious attempt to be showy or spectacular. Nevertheless, they caress the eye and seem new and vibrant though viewed many times. (For Nampeyo pots that meet this standard, see 2005-16, 2002-03, and 2010-11.) In that respect, jar 2011-24 reminds me of a few pieces I have handled or seen pictures of before.

With some thought, the parallel becomes obvious. Early in her career, Dextra painted fairly traditional designs (see 1998-03). Some of these pots had fine line designs, and to my eye pot 2011-24 is indistinguishable from an early Dextra. To treat your eye, look at the photograph of a Dextra pot very similar to 2011-24 published by Monthan (1977:59, #1). Another Dextra fine-line pot with the same ambiance as the Lowell pot is found in Struever (2001:58). Dextra is now in her 80s and nearing the end of her career. Lowell was probably in his 20s when he made 2011-24. Dextra should sleep well at night knowing that her legacy is secure.